Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tebow to speak at Winged Foot event

After growing up in Naples and attending numerous Winged Foot Scholar Athlete banquets with her father, Brooke Hornbeck knows what the annual award is all about.

Scholarship. Sportsmanship. Character. Excellence.

Hornbeck thinks this year’s speaker exemplifies all those qualities. She’s seen it first hand.

Tim Tebow has verbally committed to be the speaker at the 21st Winged Foot Scholar Athlete banquet/awards dinner to be held May 27 at Naples Grande.

Bud Hornbeck, chairman of The Winged Foot Scholarship Foundation and Brooke’s father, has informed the board of directors that the Heisman Trophy winner and former star quarterback with the Florida Gators has verbally agreed to be the keynote speaker.

Brooke Hornbeck has known Tebow well since the quarterback befriended her son Boomer last fall. Boomer, in fact, was instrumental in bringing Tebow to Naples for the Winged Foot banquet.

Boomer, who has cerebral palsy and a rare brain disorder, met Florida coach Urban Meyer when he was the speaker at last year’s banquet. Meyer invited the Hornbecks to Gainesville for a game in September, when Boomer met Tebow.

Since then, Tebow and Boomer have remained close. Brooke and Boomer Hornbeck, who now live in Atlanta, were with the Gators during the SEC championship and the Sugar Bowl. Boomer calls “Timmy” his best friend, and Tebow sent Boomer a text message in January on his eighth birthday.

“I can’t even put into words how good Tim has been with Boomer,” Brooke Hornbeck said. “He made us feel like we were doing something nice for him. He treated us like part of his family.”

The care and compassion Tebow shows with Boomer, as well as his skill on the field, make the quarterback perfect for the Winged Foot banquet, Hornbeck said.

“Tim is so young and so inspirational that these seniors are going to absolutely connect with what he’s saying,” she said. “They’ll be able to understand and relate to a lot of what Tim is saying.”

The Winged Foot Foundation has been awarding scholarships to student-athletes since 1990. Graduating seniors from Collier County high schools are eligible for the award, which was created by the Collier Athletic Club and modeled after college football’s Heisman Trophy.

“He’s what the Winged Foot is all about,” Bud Hornbeck said. “It’s about scholarship athletes and quality kids. He’s the perfect speaker for us.”

Tebow follows a list of prestigious speakers that include Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer (2009), former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz (2008), former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy (2001) and former Florida and current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier (1994).

“We’ve had some really good names,” Hornbeck said. “They’ve all been big names, but I don’t know anybody that’s bigger today than Tim Tebow is. He’s very relevant to younger kids and people of all ages. His following is just outstanding.”

Tebow, who hopes to be selected in April’s NFL Draft, will be the first active player to speak at the Winged Foot banquet since former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety John Lynch in 2003. In 1998, Zach Thomas spoke when he was a linebacker with the Miami Dolphins.

The Winged Foot banquet is open to the public. For ticket or sponsorship information, visit www.wingedfootaward.com.

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